After the sun and heat of Saturday we woke to find Sunday somewhat of a disappointment. For the first time since the Easter bank holidays rain was falling and the other side of the valley was obscured from view by cloud and mist. Never ones to be beaten by a bit of bad weather we decided to head north and check out the RSPB Gwenffrwd-Dinas reserve for the first time. We didn’t know what to expect but what we found was an idyllic location with some absolutely superb birds.
As soon as we stepped out of the car we heard our first calling Cuckoo of the year, one of two that we heard there that day. This is great news as last year was somewhat of a failure on the Cuckoo front. If I remember correctly we only heard a couple and definitely didn’t see any. This time we have at least heard them much earlier so I am hopeful for some actual sightings very soon. We followed the board walk into the forest and were immediately greeted by my first Nuthatch of the year which appeared to be nesting in one of the tit boxes. It popped back and forth a few times while we watched although we never saw any sign of young inside. Whilst there I glanced upwards and saw a male and female pair of Pied Flycatchers! I absolutely adore these birds but due to the bad lighting I couldn’t get any usable photographs. Also hopping around the same few trees was a male Blackcap, a Goldcrest and several Willow Warblers. Very strangely we couldn’t hear any Ciffchaffs, and indeed didn’t for the whole of our visit. What have they got against this locality?
As the pictures above show the reserve opens up onto a river that begins to plunge rapidly downwards just out of sight. A Dipper put in a very brief appearance (another 2010 first) before flying back upstream, but the highlight for me was a female and two male Redstarts sat in a nearby bush. These birds look so alien with their striking colours that they couldn’t fail to brighten up the drab day.
After leaving the river we headed back into the woodland for the return leg where the migrants just kept getting better and better. First blood went to a couple of Wood Warblers who were hard to miss with their very distinctive call. Once found with the binoculars their bright yellow throats confirmed the ID. We briefly thought that we could hear a Grasshopper Warbler before a couple of calling Mistle Thrushes flew overhead. I think that their calls sound rather similar but it does confirm that the Thrushes I saw at the back of the house a few weeks ago were of the Mistle variety. A few meters further on and we stumbled across a small party of Tree Pipits feeding on the floor, only my second sighting ever of this species. Again the lighting was too bad for any photographs much to my annoyance. After all that I was more than satisfied but the icing was placed firmly on the cake when I spotted a couple of Yellowhammers down on some local farmland. If we had wanted some of the most colourful birds to see on a grey day I don’t think we could have done much better.
Not wanting to head home just yet we continued north to the Dyfi Osprey project, unsurprisingly located on the River Dyfi. One of the Ospreys could be seen a long way away sat on top of a telegraph pole eating a fish. Not the greatest of views but as always a very special one. In the surrounding reedbeds we could hear a couple of Sedge Warblers but none popped out to say hello. A couple of Sikins were feeding near the hide.
To round the day off we moved on to Aberystwyth for some food before the long trip back. The burger I had was very nice while a juvenile Herring Gull and a Rock Pipit provided a couple of photo opportunities now that the sun had finally decided to come out.
Considering such an inauspicious start to the day I couldn’t believe the luck that we’d had, both in terms of keeping dry and the wildlife that we had seen. We have also gained another location that is definitely worth repeat visits. You can’t really ask for much more than that.